From Publishers Weekly
According to the World Health Organization, more than a hundred million acts of sexual intercourse take place every day. In this immensely entertaining and informative book, Margolis lays out in glorious and rich detail the widely varied human experience of sex beyond the simple and necessary act of reproduction. From straightforward biology of the human body to the mind-bendingly various cultural norms and practices within human civilizations past and present, Margolis presents a beautifully written, deep-focus view of human sexual pursuit, gratification and frustration. According to Margolis, the orgasm has been cherished, misunderstood, feared and pandered to throughout the ages. He cites anthropological research indicating that while the innate human tendency toward "pair bonding" holds true, sex and pleasure were once free and synonymous. Orgasm, with its white-hot physical pleasure and consciousness-altering effects, was worshiped in many developing cultures. As civilizations became more sophisticated about reproduction and, sadly, property rights, orgasms and who gives, receives and enjoys them, became increasingly regulated. In the West particularly, the female orgasm—always a mystery to the mostly patriarchal power structure—was increasingly seen as a threat to the advancement of social development. In the modern age, science has taken a front seat in the understanding and exploration of this most basic of human experience, with mixed results. While women have made strides toward orgasmic equality, in Margolis's view there is still some way to go. Neither leering nor squeamish, Margolis has created a fresh, compelling work guaranteed to ignite much late-night conversation.
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Passing briefly over the scientific facts-- how long orgasms last in various species, what makes them happen, what keeps them from happening--Margolis devotes himself to the social history of the ways and means of orgasm. Some of this is purely speculation; for example, about the likelihood of oral sex in prehistory he opines, "It is beyond contention, surely, that at some stage man realized that the mouth on a face bears a distinct similarity to the mouth of a vagina, and then had a hunch that it might be interesting for the woman to apply her mouth to his penis, and vice versa." Is it beyond contention that it was inevitably men who made such a discovery? Sociobiology is invoked in Margolis' discussion of what masturbation aids tell us about human sexuality, and medieval literature is mined for what it has to say about Celtic homosexuality. Indeed, there is no discipline that Margolis doesn't employ to explore his fascinating subject. And his breezy, sophisticated writing doesn't hurt, either. Patricia MonaghanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved